Commando Comic No.5187 ‘Ice-Cold Commando’

To celebrate my latest cover for Commando Comics being on the shelves here is a post looking at the creation of my second cover for the comic. This post was originally created for my Patreon supporters back in December 2018 and I have decided not to update the text so it reflects my feelings and thoughts at the time.

Four Commando Comics are published every fortnight by DC Thomson & Co Ltd and you can find out more information about them and a free digital trial at their website: https://www.commandocomics.com

You can also buy this issue of Commando ‘Ice-Cold Commando’ digitally over at Comixology.


There was a four month gap between being briefed my first Commando cover and the next. The gap seemed to widen when my first cover was printed and on the shelves without having received the next brief but thankfully back in September a new cover arrived. At that time it was titled ‘Winter Warriors’ and the brief was pretty straightforward with a few supplied visuals.

‘Daytime, Finland. Very snowy. Two German Ski soldiers fire at Len who is jumping over a crevasse. Len is a Commando so he’s in a Commando uniform and he’s scavenged the coat from a dead Russian Lieutenant. To make matters even more confusing, he’s scavenged a German MP 40.’

Above: Hunt the Killer art by Alessandro Biffignandi and interior art on Ice-Cold Commando by Jaume Forns.

Having spent some time searching for various references, including your typical ski and ski poles used during WW2, I set about producing the rough that would let the Commando team see what I had in mind. I knew they wanted the character to be the main focus and that it needed to be a good action piece. Just as much for my own use as to show the editorial team I also worked up a colour version of the rough. This helps me make up my mind how I’m going to approach painting the work (and even in what medium) and also lets the the client get a good idea of what the final art will look like. Their only alteration at this point was to move the main figure more to the middle of the cover, an easy enough change and one I quickly changed on the colour rough and re-supplied for their approval.

As is my usual practice I then went onto pencilling a final version of the art but flipped onto tracing paper. As I’ve mentioned many times before flipping the art helps highlight any balancing issues. You can easily draw something like a face that when flipped looks odd and uneven, it is an easy way to spot your balancing mistakes and I recommend every artist should photograph or scan their work as they produce it and flip it to spot any potential mistakes before it’s too late. Also, as I pencil onto tracing paper it makes it much easier to then transfer the final pencils onto your art surface of choice.

Starting the painting I knew I wanted to tackle the overall background first and I also knew I’d be doing this in a mixture of watercolours and gouache. Many brilliant watercolorists can use the negative space left by masking the board to fantastic effect and if I was going to paint this purely in watercolours that is how I’d have approached doing the snow. However I wanted to use gouache for the snow and I started by painting in the mountain and trees in watercolour. The trees look like how I would paint them before the snow storm arrived and that is pretty much what happened.

I outlined a lot of the main character in watercolour in appropriate colour hues to how I was going to paint him. This acts almost as a barrier for the washes of paint I was about to add into the background. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t stop paint from running over the lines but it does hinder them and with a bit of self control you can make life easier for yourself. All of the background hill and crevice were given a wash of watercolour and then gouache was added in afterwards. Several tones of grey/blue gouache were added as the snowfall on the trees and then a much lighter but not actual pure white was added mostly to the right hand side of the trees to indicate the strongest light source. The snow falling through the motion of the skiing character would be added near the end of painting.

I then painted in the main character and the two German Ski Troopers in watercolour making sure that their white coloured outfits were treated to a different greyish tone to separate them from the whites of the snow. Len’s stolen Russian winter coat was also treated to a brown/yellow hue to fit in with the mountains, the same golden glow right across the middle of the cover.

After finishing the painting the next stage was to scan it in and tidy up the file as it was. Again I knew from the beginning that I wanted to add a motion effect in Photoshop to give Len even more movement. Part of me regrets that some of the lovely snow covered trees became blurred but I think the effect added helps a lot with the action. 

The final art was supplied to the client for approval which, I’m pleased to say, was with much enthusiasm. Here is the press release for the comic which should be on the shelves from the 27th of December and for the next two weeks after.

Commando 5187: Home of Heroes – Ice-Cold Commando

Graeme Neil Reid returns for his second ever Commando cover! Fronting Jaume Forns’ icy interiors to ‘Ice-Cold Commando’, Reid’s cover leaps into action with Commando Lieutenant Ron Lamont’s escape across the frozen Russian wasteland. Get your woollies on, troops, it’s time to go skiing!

Story: George Low | Art: Jaume Forns | Cover: Graeme Neil Reid

It’s quite exciting that the press release makes a big deal of the cover art and for myself I’m excited that the story is by an ex-Editor of the Commando Comics range. I haven’t read the story yet myself so I plan to walk into town and hopefully see it on the shelves and buy myself a copy. If you can get a copy yourself please do and let social media know all about it, it helps me get more work from the team if they know folks like it! 

Peter Cushing

This post uses a few ‘Work in Progress’ posts from my Patreon back in 2017 but also some new bits that I thought would be quite interesting. This is a chance to show the couple of times I’ve painted actor Peter Cushing but in two different roles. The first instance is really just the actual finished image and I have no behind the scenes progress to show for this Artist Card small (3.5″ by 2.5″) painting but I like to show it off anyway.


Watercolour and gouache Artist Card sized painting

25th February 2017

“This is, I think, a two-pipe problem.”

I guess everyone has their favourite actor in the role of Sherlock Holmes but like the Doctor in Doctor Who you accept all the other incarnations as a part of the whole. I couldn’t comfortably say who my first Sherlock Holmes actually was. I certainly recall seeing a season of Basil Rathbone films but more in passing than in a effort to see them. Probably around the same time I saw the Hammer Film version of The Hound of Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. As a young child I did take seeing any Hammer Film as big treat so I would have watched this film adaption as ‘must see’. My favourite Hammer Film was Dracula so I always had issue with accepting Lee and Cushing in these other roles but eventually I grew fond of Cushing’s portrayal through seeing a repeat of his BBC TV series from 1968.

I wouldn’t say there was anything unpredictable about the way Cushing plays Holmes, in fact it seems a pretty straight forward expected depiction especially for the time it was filmed. However Cushing brings a warmth to the character, you like the actor and therefore find it easier to accept the super sleuth. Lots of actors have played the great detective exactly the same way, especially during the 70s, but they’ve brought nothing extra to the role and the warmth has been missing. As much as I enjoy Cushing as the Baker Street detective he isn’t my favourite Sherlock Holmes but I certainly rank him one of the best.

A return to watercolour for this painting as I thought the delicate detail of the Victorian wallpaper and Cushing’s fine features would be best served in that medium.


Blue lead pencils

13th November 2017

“You have transferred us in time and space and I haven’t even set the controls.”

In the last few years I’ve had a lot of similar conversations about Doctor Who at the various comic conventions I’ve attended most of them to do with if I’ve actually painted ‘all’ of the Doctors. In general I’ve always said I have painted all of them with the added proviso of ‘all the TV series Doctors’ but you always have some people who mention the film Doctor to which I counter ‘why not Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Trevor Martin and a whole lot of other people who have also played the Doctor’. Most of the time that just draws blank looks though.

So to combat some of those who like to mention the two Peter Cushing films I’ve decided to get around to painting him as the good Doctor, not from Gallifrey but the eccentric English inventor who just happens to create a time machine and bump into the Daleks a lot. This painting is based purely on the first 1965 film ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ which sees Dr Who, his two granddaughters Susan and Barbara and Barbara’s boyfriend Ian accidentally travel through time and space. The films can be a tricky thing for avid Doctor Who fans to accept but I’ve always enjoyed the charm of them and it is easy to accept Peter Cushing as the loveable ‘grandfather’.

As you can see here are the pencils ready for painting, I couldn’t resist painting a film Dalek and I’m going to play with the plume of smoke that the film Daleks shot and make it more like the blast of fire/smoke that the film posters preferred to depict. 


I’m often asked about using sourced reference shots for painting well known actors. While some likenesses of famous people can often be based on just one good picture I prefer to use a few sources to try and come up with enough information to create something new or not just ‘oh they’ve used that well known publicity photo’.

Aside from that I like to create ‘mood boards’ in Photoshop to help give me an overall feel for the subject. Below is the mood board I created for this illustration mostly showing Peter Cushing but also the sense of colour scheme the used in the film. I ended up mostly painting the petrified jungle colours for the background but having a board to refer to is great for keeping you ‘on brand’ with the overall look and feel of the movie as a whole.

Mood Board
One of the film posters that I wanted to reference.

15th November 2017

Originally I was going to leave the background quite stark and fairly colourful in an attempt to highlight the quite brash look the film had but I actually realised that the petrified forest that Tardis lands in covers that brief well. It may be a dark forest but the colours used where very striking. Purple lighting against green lit tree trunks and yellows seeping into the ground, it certainly wasn’t dull.

I did think of adding a hint of the Dalek city through the trees but I decided against it as I wanted to concentrate on the figures more. I knew I was going to use gouache to add the brash highlighting so I was quite happy to slap on the watercolours and see what would happen.


The final painting scanned in and tidied up in Photoshop.

16th November 2017

“In electro-connective theory, space expands to accommodate the time necessary to incorporate its dimensions.” Granddaughter Susan explaining quite simply why Tardis is bigger on the inside. I’ll take her word for it.

As you can see the piece is finished and I’m quite happy with it even if I do say so myself. I think it looks nice and vibrant and I’m pleased with my likeness of Cushing.

Commando Comic No.5153 ‘The Red Devil’

This post was originally created for my Patreon supporters back in August 2018 and I have decided not to update the text so it reflects my feelings and thoughts at the time.

An altered version of this post was printed in the excellent Illustrators Special ‘The Art of Commando’ book published by The Book Palace in 2019.

Four Commando Comics are published every fortnight by DC Thomson & Co Ltd and you can find out more information about them and a free digital trial at their website: https://www.commandocomics.com

You can also buy this issue of Commando ‘The Red Devil’ digitally over at Comixology.


Released today, Commando Comics No.5153 ‘The Red Devil’ is the first of what I hope will be many featuring my art on the cover. If you live in the United Kingdom and follow British comics at all you will probably have come across these digest sized comics at some point. Commando has been published since 1961 and is well over 5,000 issues and counting, it is a well known feature on many newsagents shelves. For myself Commando and its science fiction offshoot Starblazer (now sadly not in print) were, along with rival publishers titles like War Picture Library, just part and parcel of my comics reading as a child. You picked up these war comics along with humour titles like Buster, The Beezer and Nutty and action comics like Victor and Warlord. There where so many of them that you never ran out and you swapped and traded copies with friends.

When I was 16 I went to the offices of DC Thomson & Co Ltd (to give them their full name) with my high school portfolio stuck under my arm in the dwindling hope that I could convince them to take me on as some sort of art office junior and learn my trade. Sadly it wasn’t to be, times were changing at Thomson’s and the arrival of computers on the scene was radically changing how the art department worked. I spent a great hour or so being shown around the art department and given encouragement and criticism from the manager viewing my portfolio. I was dejected but not unhappy with the result knowing that I was going to be heading off to college eventually after having attained the right grades for entry by taking night classes.

Cut to three years later and two years worth of college study later I was about to move onto another two full years in a different course but decided that I would once again see if I could make ground at DC Thomson. Apart from cherry picking some college pieces to show them I purposefully painted a humour piece (they are well known for publishing comics like The Beano and The Dandy) and two sample covers for Commando. Since I’d begun to show interest in art I’d always loved the painted covers found on Commando Comics and I envisaged them welcoming me with open arms to the fold with the two samples I created. Sadly once again it was an interesting visit but a definite no to my abilities. I’m sad to say that as I approached my 20s the lure of graphic design and a steady job took me away from art and my attempts to work for DC Thomson.

Still it was always in my mind what could have been and many years later when I did finally start creating work for the company it was with a sense of ‘finally’ that I had convinced them I was up to the job. Creating some paintings for them of their humour characters (the same characters I had painted before as samples) and being commissioned to do them was a big ‘You’ve done it’ for me. Over the last five or six years though I’ve still looked at the covers for Commando Comics and thought ‘give me a go’ and finally I got that commission. Ghosts laid to rest? Well maybe in one way but now I want, and hope, that they continue to commission me and I can settle into being one of the artists that is known for painting the covers of the title in its 57th year.

The brief for the cover came with a very simple description and a few images of the main character Irina that is wonderfully drawn by the interior artist Vicente Alcazar.
‘1942, Daytime in Stalingrad. Close up of Irina and her sniper rifle. Irina is in herearly 20s, She had long dark hair tied practically wears Russian army Winter private uniform for 1942 and is armed with Moisin rifle.’

I set to work on roughing out the layout for the cover in pencil on paper and knowing that I wanted to impress and put across my ideas well enough I decided to also colour the rough in photoshop. Knowing that the story was about a sniper my mind instantly returned to the countless Commando, Warlord and Victor covers where the crack shot sniper centred onto their target which we saw through the circular crosshair sights so graphically used to great effect. It seems like an almost unwritten rule for a war artist to include these round crosshair sights in a story about a sniper and who am I to break a rule that works.

I submitted my roughs and was pleased to receive a very positive response with only one request to alter the colouring to reflect the title of the comic. So a quick play around in Photoshop and with added red elements the rough was approved.

Onto the pencils where the details of the rifle, destroyed city, targeted soldier and Irina herself where all nailed down in my usual way of pencilling flipped onto tracing paper. The finished pencils where then scanned in and the tracing paper version was used to transfer the pencils onto the watercolour art board I was going to paint onto. Part of the image wraps around the comic and I wanted the image on the back of the comic to stand on its own which is why I placed the ruins of Stalingrad in an opposing colour scheme in this area. It works as a whole but also separately and I recall as a kid, and even now, excitedly seeing what hidden bonus had been painted on the back of the comic.

Painting in watercolour moved through quite swiftly with me concentrating on getting the main character right first before adding in the background. 

The finished piece was scanned in and retouched and modified in Photoshop. With no small amount of trepidation I sent off the cover for approval by the editor and was delighted by the response and praise for my first cover.

Here is the press release for the issue:

5153: Action and Adventure: The Red Devil

Hiding in the thick snow, the Red Devil is watching. In the battle-torn, bomb‑shelled carcass of Stalingrad, she stalks her prey. Her sights aimed and her finger taut, she pulls the trigger…

Specially selected for the cover, Graeme Neil Reid’s exhilarating art shows our hellish heroine in a blood red light, capturing her plight for the Motherland as well as her deadly shot! 

|Story | Iain McLaughlin | Pencils | Vicente Alcazar | Cover | Graeme Neil Reid | 

I managed to read the comic a couple of weeks ago when the editor showed me the proofs ready for the printer. It’s a cracking little story which moves along at a good pace all written by the talented Iain McLaughlin who has a long and varied career on many different DC Thomson titles among other things. The comic will be available in all good newsagents for the next two weeks along with the three other issues also released at the same time. If you can I’d ask that you try and pick a copy up and if possible sing the covers praises on social media to Commando Comics themselves. If the comic sells well and enough people mention my art then it all helps to convince the editor that I’m worthy of more and I’d love to see this become a regular gig. As always with client work where I can’t share the work prior to release with my supporters I will endeavour to record the process and show it upon release of the work.